When the crumbling Ponderosa Steakhouse on Hampton Avenue was finally demolished, near-south siders breathed a unison sigh of relief. When local quickie-mart chain U-Gas opened last year, those same mouths cheered for gustatory joy: Around the holidays, warm, homemade (and free!) chocolate-chip cookies were given away to every customer. Sweet! Also sweet: the U-Gas beer selection. For starters, there's the walk-in cooler, a.k.a. the "Cold Brew Igloo," which houses stacks of brews from near and far — Griesedieck, McSorley's and Stella are few of many. The party continues with dozens more located outside the igloo on shelves and in refrigerators, the fancy and not-so: Young's, 312, Pyramid, Widmer, as well as sixteen-ouncers of old reliables like A-B and Colt 45. Lemons, limes and Havarti (wuh?) cheese, if you so choose, can round out your order, as will a pack of smokes — which, at U-Gas, will set you back less than five bucks. The mission statement posted near the cash register alludes to cultivating "a culture of fun." Do they ever!
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